During the few occasions when I was sent in from the field to the U. S. army headquarters in China to report to General Albert C. Wedemeyer in 1945, I noticed that the general and his staff were keenly interested in certain questions.
How strong were the Chinese Communist-led forces? How would they measure up against U. S.-trained and equipped Chinese Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-shek?
As an observer in North China, making a particular study of troop morale and psychological warfare of the Japanese and Chinese Communist-led forces, I was able to report in some detail.
Right alter Japanese capitulation, I recall being asked what would be the result of Chinese Nationalist occupation of North China. We were then airlifting Chiang's troops from South China into areas occupied by the Japanese in North China.
I remember answering that if we were to place Chiang's troops into the exact positions occupied by the Japanese in the cities and along strategic railway and communication lines, the Nationalists would not be able to maintain their positions, even with American help. They would be occupational troops in islands surrounded by hostile guerrilla-occupied territories.
When the Japanese Mind Was Considered Unfathomable
In a stalemate or in a protracted war of attrition, troop morale is important. And a politically conscious soldier would have a higher morale than one who was not fighting for a cause.
The Japanese soldiers, for Instance, were fanatics, intensely indoctrinated with the "Yamato" spirit. They fought "with a determination that was awesome to the Westerners during the major part of the Pacific war. The "Japanese mind" was then considered unfathomable and shrewd, leading to treachery, cruelty and all that was bad.
Experts on Japanese affairs came up with all kinds of analyses and theories, and a few became experts by propounding the idea that it is practically impossible to understand the Japanese.
But on the North China fronts the Japanese were losing the psychological warfare. To put a demoralized, politically weak and corrupt Nationalist army in their place meant they would eventually collapse from a combined military and psychological onslaught.
Great Faith Was Placed In U. S.-Trained Troops
In September 1945, on a trip I made to Chungking, my superiors did not agree with me. Butt I told them what I had observed and learned. It was a time when it was felt in certain high positions that the Nationalists could fan out in North China and With U. S. assistance, destroy the anti-Japanese resistance forces led by the Communists.
I remember telling General Wedemeyer the story of Blockhouse 50 which I shall relate here in greater detail.
The 80th Battalion or Takei Tai was garrisoned in a county in North Hopeh province in 1944. It was a crack outfit, and was marked for Pacific duty in the spring of 1945. It dominated the county by a network of blockhouses, solid castles of brick and stone in which soldiers lived. In the spring and autumn the soldiers sauntered out to mop up the countryside, plunder grain and return to their strongholds.
The guerrillas constantly harassed the Japanese troops. Toward the spring of 1945, the Japanese command issued an order to blockhouses on the perimeter, instructing those in charge not to let their men outside. When Japanese army messengers and mail carriers travelled to outpost blockhouses, a squad went along as escort. When a captain went on an inspection tour of blockhouses, a section accompanied him.
An Island of Tyranny In the Midst of Resisting China
Blockhouse 50- was in one of the perimeter villages in the county. Like the others, it was an island of tyranny in the middle of resisting China. It was formidable, with a tower full of loopholes for machine guns and rifles. Around it was a high wall and beyond it, the remnants of a blockhouse which had been destroyed by Chinese Reds. The demolished fortress once housed puppet troops that had been locally conscripted.
The Chinese Communist forces, who carried on vast propaganda offensives against their own people, used families and friends among these puppets to visit them, bring them food and propaganda literature to explain their traitorous roles. Finally, the puppets deserted on a pre-arranged night. The guerrillas tore down the walls and blew up the blockhouse. This left Blockhouse 50 without any outer defense.
Lt. Koga Tried To Shield His Men From Propaganda
Sixteen Japanese soldiers lived in Blockhouse 50. Formerly there were 17 but Corporal Shiratori had been captured by the Reds. lieutenant Koga, who was in charge of the blockhouse, was high-strung, nervous and mean to his men, especially to Private Morimoto, a man of 40 who constantly thought of his home and children.
Koga had a habit of telephoning adjacent blockhouses every night to ascertain whether guerrillas had shown any signs of life. In the daytime, he searched the baskets and clothing of Chinese peasants who brought vegetables and meat to his blockhouse. He confiscated all leaflets sent by the Japanese prisoner converts who were on the Communist side. Once he nearly killed a peasant boy who brought letters to his men from the Japanese People's Emancipation League. On another occasion he suspected Morimoto of writing a letter to the JPEL and he slapped and kicked the private until he himself collapsed from exhaustion.
From the Darkness Beyond, Nostalgic Music
That night the lieutenant heard a familiar voice. The guerrillas were around his blockhouse and JPEL members were "night broadcasting" under cover of the darkness. Through a megaphone, they began shouting:
"Good evening, Lieutenant Koga! Are you there?" "Who wants to know?" shouted Koga and from a loophole he fired a burst from a machine gun.
"I am Corporal Shiratori. Do you remember me? I am now a member of the Japanese People's Emancipation League . . ."
"You damn fool! Traitor, you! You are a disgrace to the Emperor!" And he furiously sprayed the area with machine gun bullets and yelled at his own men to keep firing.
When the din died down, from the darkness beyond, nostalgic recorded music came to them. The men stood by loopholes with ears turned to catch every refrain.
"If You Are a Japanese, You Will Return . .. ."
"Why did you beat Private Morimoto today? Why don't you let Corporal Noguchi read our leaflets?" shouted Shiratori.
"Shiratori, if you are a Japanese you will return to the Imperial army. I will give you the opportunity . . ."
"No thank you, I am much happier here! Japan is fighting an unjust war. Why do you kill the Chinese, rape innocent women and children and take grain?"
The night wore on and Koga got angrier and angrier and sporadically shot into the darkness from where the voices came. Each time phonograph music drifted back to the blockhouse. Shiratori said he knew Private Ono's sore foot was not any better because Koga would not send him to the hospital.
Did Private Ushio receive any letter after the last one he got three weeks ago? Shiratori asked. He was reading letters which the guerrillas captured and later forwarded to the blockhouse. He told Koga he was sending his former comrades comfort kite, rice wine and playing cards the next day and asked the officer not to confiscate them. Koga ordered his men to fire at Shiratori in order to drown out his voice.
After three hours, Shiratori vanished as suddenly as he had come. Koga spent a restless night and put extra guards out on the parapet.
Koga Returned Empty-Handed From a Looting Expedition
Twice a week Shiratori returned and he got bolder each time. He urged the soldiers to disobey Koga, a "rotten officer." He explained about the JPEL and asked them to come over. He also tapped telephone wires, listened in on conversations which went on between blockhouses, talked to the soldiers. Sometimes he cut in while Koga was talking and the lieutenant would hang up angrily. Koga shifted his demoralized men and brought in fresh troops. Shiratori learned their names, where their native homes were and how they felt toward Koga.
Ones Private Mori, a "secret member" of the JPEL recruited in Blockhouse 50, informed Shiratori through a Chinese peddler, that Koga had received an order to go on a pillaging expedition. When Koga went on his mission with 50 men, puppet transport laborers and carts, he found all the grain hidden and not a peasant left in the villages.
Shiratori ribbed Koga about this in his "night broadcast." Mori deserted to the JPEL one dark night. This news was shouted a few nights later. Then Corporal Goto and Private Hoshino slipped away during a pillaging expedition. They searched the countryside for the Communist-led guerrillas and were captured by militiamen who took them to headquarters where Shiratori welcomed them. In all, Koga lost nine men through desertion. Out of these, five came to Yenan and I talked with them.
Like Water Eroding a Pebble . . .
Blockhouse 50 was just one stronghold of numerous fortresses which were neutralized. Before the war ended, it became untenable and was evacuated.
Like water eroding a pebble, propaganda ate away at the ideologically under-equipped enemy which startled the West with its fanaticism. The Chinese Communists had a more powerful weapon in the justice of their defense against aggression. The Japanese POW converts believed in them and passed the message along.
Of the captives brought to Yenan, among whom I conducted a survey, the percentage of deserters and voluntary captives grew from 10 per cent in 1940 to 44 per cent in 1944. At no anti-Japanese militarist front in Asia or the Pacific did psychological warfare achieve such success.